A couple years later, I had moved out and gotten an apartment and I was on a mission to decorate. One of my friends at school had a booth at an antique mall and her Dad made beautiful shelves out of barn boards, old wood, square nails and old hardware parts. I found a shelf in a magazine that I wanted but could never afford and I asked him if he could make me one. He said that he could. I hung the shelf in my horribly dated apartment kitchen- yellow linoleum flooring, yellow Formica counter tops and matching avocado green appliances. Not exactly the look I was going for with my country chic décor, but it was all that I had to work with at the time.
I went over to my Dad’s and carried those three storage totes of Mason jars downstairs and into my car. A family friend of ours, lives in a beautiful old house. Her house is so beautiful it is like walking into an issue of Country Living magazine. She has a beautiful old country store counter with glass front drawers as her kitchen island. Inside each drawer front is filled with items that would have been for sale in an old general store. I loved it and this was my inspiration for my Mason jar display, now it was time to find stuff to fill my Mason jars. I made a list and when it was time to go grocery shopping, I headed to the local Wal-Mart. I found the dried bean section and marveled at all the different kinds of beans-perfect for my Mason jars! But as I looked at the prices and quickly learned that I would need 3-4 bags of beans to fill just one of my Grandma’s Mason jars, it just wasn’t in my meager college student budget. So, it was back to the drawing board.
My oldest brother is a dairy farmer and each fall after he picked corn, we would go in the corn field behind my Dad’s house and pick up the ears of corn that had fallen to the ground. I knew my Dad always kept a bag of corn in his garage to feed the squires each winter. I knew if I asked, he would let me have a few ears of corn for my Mason jars. I asked my Dad if I could have a couple. He said I could and when I told him what I was going to do them, I foolishly thought that he would offer to shell them for me. Besides he was retired and had nothing better to do than help his daughter to decorate, right? Wrong, he handed them to me and walked away. One night while I watched television, I sat down on the floor and shelled corn into my Mason jar. One jar filled!
One day when I was at my brother’s farm there was a delivery truck delivering some cotton seed. I don’t think I had ever seen cotton seed before and I asked him what he used that for. He told me that he feed it to his cows as part of their ration. A few days later, it struck me. Cotton seed in a Mason jar would look really cool and very unique! My friend didn’t have cotton seed in her general store counter. I asked my Dad if I could have some and he said, “What for?”
“My Mason jars,” I told him.
“Well, you would have to ask your brother. You know, he has to pay for that right?” He said.
A couple days later I found the perfect Mason fruit jar and headed to my brother’s farm. I asked him if I could have some cotton seed. He was even more perplexed then my Dad as to why I would want some cotton seed. When I explained to him what I was doing, he just shook his head and said, “take what you want.”
I filled a couple more Mason jars with some of my Grandma’s old buttons and some cheap coffee beans that I found at the dollar store. My friend with the beautiful general store counter dried some orange slices for me and my Mason jars were complete. I have moved several times since that dated yellow and avocado green apartment kitchen but my Mason jars are still on display on that barn board shelf.
A couple of months ago, we got a phone call from a gentleman that had a Mason jar collection that he was interested is selling at one of our auctions. He explained that he had hundreds of them in all shapes, sizes and colors. I was instantly excited. A couple of weeks later, we got a phone call that they were all packed up and were on their way to drop off the jar collection. There were boxes and boxes and boxes of Mason jars. I will never forget when I first walked into the auction building to see tables and tables of beautiful old Mason jars, some which I had only seen in books.
The day came to set up the auction and a couple of guys that help us just stood there and shook their heads. One asked me, “Have you ever seen so many Mason jars?” We started sorting like jars together- Mason, Mason Perfect, Ball Mason, Kerr, Atlas, Stanford, Drey, etc. A couple I was scared to touch because I had only seen them in antique reference books. Before we knew it, we had a trailer full of jars. As we sorted we joked about dreaming about Mason jars. I didn’t dream about Mason jars that night but I did learn what a pickle pusher is that day.
I still have three totes of Mason jars from my Grandma’s house in my attic. Today those Mason jars are merely decorative, but they remind me of my Grandma and all the hardworking women in my family that canned, froze and worked hard for everything they had in life. I wonder what they would think about the Mason jar decorating craze???
Here are a few of my favorite jars from our July 29th Auction.